We’ve been having a good abortion discussion on Hal’s “The Closing Gender Gap” post. I do not want to move that discussion over here and I don’t want to make this post about abortion either.
This is going to be one of those times that I ask everyone to completely ignore the over-riding issue. A good blogger would struggle with this, so you can imagine how distorted this is going to be when I get through.
Instead, I want to dwell on this phenomenon I’ve been studying that I call a sort of Comfortable Extremism. First, I think we should confront the Republican Party’s weird problem with rape. It’s getting to be frustrating for those of us who just can’ t vote for a Democrat, don’t want to stay home on Election Day, and don’t read Infowars enough to keep up on the Libertarian platform. I’m especially annoyed because I had no idea until Akin spouted off that this is an emerging trend among pro-life conservatives. It bothers me when my own cluelessness gets me ambushed like this. I even still managed to be surprised by Mourdock’s similar statement. Apparently, I shouldn’t be expecting mature candidates for the US Fucking Senate. This is well and good for dopey state legislators, but the Senate?
Now you can say that I’m being unfair here. After all, the Romney campaign keeps coming forward and condemning members of their own party who tell us what they actually think about girls who claim they were raped. And that’s why this is a GOP problem. Why are Republican national candidates being compelled to stop talking about their national agendas to remind us that they disapprove of sexually-aggressive felonies?
The reason is that politicians–like us real people–believe stupid things, are kind of stupid themselves without realizing it, hang out with other stupid people, and talk about the stupid things they believe and they promptly run into trouble when they get near a microphone (knowingly or unknowingly) and tell the world what they really think. It turns out that we only want the sane politicians to be honest.
You know what it is? For years, liberals could say: “Sure, abortion isn’t great, but you don’t REALLY want to force women to carry a child conceived from rape or incest, do you?” And that argument has been persuasive for the majority of Americans. In fact, pro-choice advocates thought the beauty of it was that nobody on the other side would be so callous, crazy, foolish, or all of the above as to pick on rape victims. Yep. Turns out, they are and they will. And then, for some reason, they feel the need to apologize and explain that they really do disapprove of raping women.
I’m not saying that Akin or Mourdock are bad guys who want to go all Taliban-y on rape victims. I’m not even going to criticize people who agree with their viewpoint that there should be no rape exception for abortion. It’s not my point here today. It’s a great example of how the opposing party has so completely owned an issue that the other party has to go to the most ridiculous extremes to keep their own argument consistent. Akin and Mourdock (and I suspect many, many pro-lifers) have had to either redefine or downplay rape to keep from ever having to admit that abortion is justified in even more than 1% of pregnancies.
Americans have gotten to be so extreme on certain pet issues that they don’t even realize how far out they are when they get outside of their circle of friends and followers. That’s why the reactions these political guys make is always a day-later “whaaa?” instead of an immediate clarification.
Democrats aren’t immune to this either. The GOP has successfully dominated the 2nd Amendment issue so well that Democrats won’t dare bring it before a national audience. Behind the scenes during the 2008 campaign, however, Obama let loose with his “bitterly clinging to guns and religion” comment. He apologized later, but that’s what he and his intended audience really believes: “There isn’t a right or even a need to own firearms. It’s all about hating people different from yourself.”
The observation I have is that too many Americans have become comfortable in holding extreme viewpoints because they don’t fucking talk to people they disagree with and never have to defend their own views or articulate and explain concepts such as the Vaginal Anti-Rape Firewall. It’s just about impossible to have a grown-up conversation on the big issues these days with anybody because of it.
When people have to contort their arguments to avoid reality, deal in Sith-like absolutes, and attack; they’re probably holding an extremist viewpoint. Obviously, when people have been backed into a corner and are arguing nutty things, it’s because they’re losing. Don’t let them get comfortable with it. Call bullshit. You’ll be doing him or her a favor and probably saving that person from future embarrassment.